Dan Stanton’s hardtails have struck a chord with us from day one – GREAT HANDLING, beautifully crafted with a sublime ride quality. Does the latest Mk II titanium Switchback still hit the spot?
Words: Sean White Photos: Callum Philpott
Stanton’s aim with the Switchback was to design the most confidence inspiring frame that they possibly could – with their progressive geometry, neat detailing and super-smooth ride quality. This second Generation Switchback (the Mk II) is a development of the original and moves things forward keeping up with the changes in industry standards of the last few years. Times move on and Stanton’s small batch production and tight range of well considered frames, means they can tweak and refine their models more frequently than the bigger global brands. A real advantage.
“The new Switchback Ti will have you leaving the full-suspension bike in the garage…”
If you’ve read any of our reviews on Stanton’s frames (we’ve featured them in many Dirt 100 listings), you’ll be aware that whether in titanium or steel, they combine the angles and attitude of a long travel trail hardtail with the smooth riding nature these materials are renowned for. Light, nimble and well mannered, but with the ability to take the edge of the trail when the tracks turn properly rough.
“Designed around the 27.5” wheel and the 27.5+” wheel platform, the Switchback Ti has our custom designed yoke that creates space in the chain stays to accommodate large volume, deep tread 2.4” tyres on 27.5” wheels or 2.8” Plus tyres” – Stanton.
All this, while not affecting the incredibly short chain stay length, which is kept nice and tight by curving the seat tube. Stanton have made small yet carefully measured changes without compromising the Switchback’s class leading geometry.
The 415mm chain stay length, 320mm bottom bracket height (static, with 2.4″ tyres fitted), 65° head angle and long or short reach options gives you an amazingly responsive and agile ride. Dan Stanton has not just done his homework, he’s developed and nurtured a range of hardtails over the past few years and with each evolution we see a frame that is dialled up one notch more.
The geometry of the second generation Switchback Ti has been optimised to help the rider feel confident when pushing on into more challenging and technical terrain – a land where a long travel trail or enduro bike would usually be seen as the ideal machine. You know the kind of stuff, steep off camber descents littered with root and rock, or the tougher black routes at bike parks. The triple-butted 3AL-2.5V titanium tubing provides an incredibly smooth ride, yet combined with a tapered steerer fork, compact main frame triangle and bolt through axles dishes out a direct feel with no vagueness to the steering. This bike goes where you point it and tracks superbly, holding its line with authority and letting you press on hard with confidence.
Our test bike was kitted out with a 140mm Fox 34 Factory fork (our trail fork pick in the 2016 Dirt 100), and the FIT4 damping really suits the Switchback, keeping the shape of the bike well. With plump 2.4″ Onza rubber front and rear, these high volume tyres suited the ride qualities of the titanium frame and Fox damping very well. The wide prototype carbon rims adding to the ride quality and cornering feel and give a good shape to the tyres. There are plenty of well considered details on this Stanton build.
We’ve been playing about with 27Plus sizing recently and wonder how well the Switchback would work with this size – it has been designed to handle a 2.8″ tyre but runs a 142mm back end rather than a Boost 148mm spacing. Would the extra cushioning and grip from 27+ rubber enhance or detract from the smooth and already forgiving ride quality of this titanium frame? It may well let this bike comfortably run into even more challenging terrain.
If you’re going to buy a titanium frame as ‘a keeper’, now that we’ve settled on good geometry around this latest wheelsize, it’s realistic to say that this bike will still be as relevant is a few years time as it is now – the Switchback MK II is bang up to date.